Two brothers, both alike in vanity. In fair Seoul where we lay this majestic scene. Where ancient grudge breaks into new rivalry. Where civil blood make civil hands unclean.
KBS kicked off its third season of its Drama Special anthology series this year with suspense thriller Sirius. Garnering critical acclaim for its directing, writing, and acting, the premiere drew in an impressive 3.8% in ratings for its midnight timeslot. And I am happy to report that the show is totally kickass with its captivating visuals, tightly written story, and characters that draw you into their mysterious and mind-boggling world.
Who knew that identical twins could be so eerily similar and yet so starkly different from one another?
SONG OF THE DAY
No Respect for Beauty – “The Walls Between Us” [ Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
In a deserted alleyway, a teenage boy stares into the sky. A moment later, a sharp kick to the back sends him flying towards the wall. He turns around to face his attacker: a bully, here to collect his dues from the class “loner.”
Eyes absent of fear, the victim easily evades a few punches before he turns the tables; he grabs his bully in a chokehold just as they’re joined by a third figure.
Glaring at the bully, our victim asks, “By any chance, is the ‘loner’ you’re talking about that guy?”
The camera pans over and the figure behind him comes into view; the bully does a double take at their striking resemblance. Ah, so the bully picked on the wrong guy, hyung DO EUN-CHANG. He’s not the timid younger brother, DO SHIN-WOO (both played by Park Hyung-shik), and now he “pays” the bully with a punch to the face.
Eun-chang’s buddies arrive and they laugh about how entertaining it would be to see the twins switch places just for kicks. Turning towards his brother, Eun-chang asks, “Are you the only one wearing that face? Can’t you behave properly?” Shin-woo murmurs an apology, his head bowed meekly.
But an apology isn’t what Eun-chang wants from little bro. He and his boys surround the bully to give him a taste of his own medicine.
Unfortunately, that’s only a temporary solution and Eun-chang notices new bruises on his brother’s back the next day. He calls Shin-woo a dummy and reminds him that they share the same face.
Unable to contain it any longer, Shin-woo storms out of the room and shockingly, smears black paint all over his face.
His voice breaks. “I look in the mirror… and I always see a face the same as yours. But why am I like this?” Oy, that’s heartbreaking. Eun-chang is also affected by his brother’s words, but doesn’t let it show.
The following morning, Shin-woo finds his school uniform missing. Uh-oh…
At school, Eun-chang pulls off a believable Shin-woo act just long enough until he and the bully are alone on the rooftop. Finally, he asks, “Do you still not know who I am?”
He throws a punch… and stops mere inches from his target. Issuing a final warning that he’ll never know when he might suddenly appear before the bully again, Eun-chang tells him to back off.
The bully grabs a fistful of snow in retaliation. Eun-chang whips around just in time, but the bully accidentally rolls over the railing and crashes to the ground several stories below. Oh crap.
Eun-chang stands there, horror-struck.
Shin-woo denies any knowledge of the incident during questioning when another officer interrupts them – they’ve got the wrong guy.
Shin-woo steps outside to see Eun-chang with their mother, waiting to hear the bully’s prognosis. It’s bad news: the victim has died, and now the case is declared a homicide.
The shocking news rings in Eun-chang’s ears as Mom pleads with the officers, but it’s no use. The victim’s body sports bruises that suggest previous physical assault and all arrows point to Eun-chang as the killer.
Shin-woo holds Mom back as Eun-chang is dragged away. However, there isn’t an ounce of the same maternal love we saw Mom show towards Eun-chang as she slaps her other son across the face.
Blaming Shin-woo for his brother’s fate, she breaks down crying. She then looks up at Shin-woo and tells him, “You go [to prison].” Hysterical now, she cries that Eun-chang was wearing his uniform so it should be Shin-woo who should be going to jail instead.
It takes all of Shin-woo’s willpower to softly answer, “I wasn’t the one who sent hyung to jail. I didn’t do anything.”
We see that Eun-chang is sent to prison and Shin-woo moves on to a prestigious law school. Years pass and the camera pans to reveal an adult Eun-chang and Shin-woo (played by Seo Joon-young) standing at opposite ends of the prison, staring at each other.
Present-day. Chinatown. A druggie gleefully smiles at his stash and soon discovers that he’s being tailed. He’s followed to the bathroom, but the mystery man breezes through without a word.
But he comes back and stuffs the junkie’s head into the sink before lifting it back up. It’s Shin-woo and he holds up a piece of evidence in front of the mirror. Does he recognize it?
The men relocate to chat and Shin-woo grabs the man by the collar, demanding to know who the druggie’s supplier is. Once he’s calmed down, he cheerily drops the name of a fish market.
Having heard enough, Shin-woo cuffs him to the chair and tells the junkie that he could be fined for calling a cop a “pig.” HA.
The druggie puts up a fight but Shin-woo can stand his ground, no longer the once meek adolescent we were introduced to. He makes a run for it and Shin-woo gives chase until they hit a dead end at the top of the stairs.
The druggie bites into the stash in defiance and then throws himself out the window, chair and all, landing on a car before hitting the ground, unconscious. Shin-woo runs outside to nab the guy, but he’s gone.
Shin-woo is later joined by his fellow officers, who chastise him for trying to apprehend a suspect without backup. They’re noticeably cautious with their words and speak in jondae because Shin-woo outranks them as Chief Detective. This reverse age hierarchy particularly bothers the older Detective Lee.
Eun-chang is released from prison and he breaks into a smile when he sees Shin-woo waiting for him. But Shin-woo doesn’t mirror his brother’s cheery disposition, tossing a bag in his direction. There’s a suit inside and perhaps Eun-chang has picked up on the oddity as well as he nervously asks his twin brother where their mother is.
Shin-woo tells him that she’s waiting in the car. He goes to get her… and takes out her urn. Eun-chang’s face falls.
They walk to the seashore and Shin-woo tasks his hyung to spread their mother’s ashes, adding in a cold tone that they conduct their memorials separately so their mother can choose which of her sons’ offerings to honor.
Tears stream down Eun-chang’s face and asks why Shin-woo didn’t tell him earlier – he could have been excused to attend the funeral. Shin-woo doesn’t answer and starts to walk away. Eun-chang calls after him, asking if their mother left him any final words.
Shin-woo relays them, “Eun-chang ah, Eun-chang ah. Where’s our Eun-chang?” His eyes well up in tears for a second before returning to its stony cold expression once more.
At the police station, the officers watch with disgust at Shin-woo tears into a shipment of fish with his bare hands until he finds a small stash in one of them. I love the tiny notes of humor in this show, like how one cop hands him a tissue before realizing that Shin-woo’s asking for the drug testing kit.
It comes out positive and Shin-woo presents the case to his investigative team. The drug packages originate from China and come to Korea disguised as trash. Once picked up at the dump site, the smuggled contraband is meant for a specific recipient: Boss GO SEOK-MIN (Ryu Seung-soo).
Speaking of whom, Boss Go tears through the halls of his club and crashes an informal holiday staff party hosted by SO-RI (Joo Woo-ri), presumably one of the more favored ladies of the bunch. He allows the festivities to continue (it is Christmas Eve, after all) but raises an eyebrow when a waiter mentions that So-ri has a new love interest.
So it’s interesting that So-ri also doubles as the cops’ informant as she tips them off to drop by tonight.
Detective Lee expresses his hesitation after the meeting, but Shin-woo knows that the detective doesn’t like having to report to someone half his age. He clarifies that once this drug investigation case is over, he’ll step aside.
The police tail Boss Go (who’s just picked up his smuggled goods) to a fish market and raid the place. Their search turns up nothing, much to Shin-woo’s displeasure.
This scene is crashed by an errand boy who bursts in, cheerily asking if they’re currently filming a drama. But as soon as he lifts his helmet, Eun-chang instantly spots Shin-woo and turns around to avoid notice.
The cops find his sudden arrival strange and ask to see his ID and face. Eun-chang nervously stutters his refusal to comply, and when his face is revealed for a split second, Shin-woo finally recognizes his brother.
Shin-woo wrangles his men to back off and then cups Eun-chang’s face in his hands to get a better look. That mix of hatred and detest in his eyes is truly chilling.
Which makes it even more heart-wrenching when we cut to Eun-chang a little while later, who’s smug with pride that little bro is a high-ranking officer.
Boss Go tries to repay Shin-woo for the food (he made the call to buy him some time to stash the drugs) but Shin-woo retorts, “Just make sure to pay your taxes correctly.” Pfft.
There’s a hint of curious intrigue when Boss Go notes that Shin-woo seems to be a new addition, to which Shin-woo counters that Boss Go must run into the police often if he notices such changes. Calling Boss Go “trash”, Shin-woo takes a whiff and mutters, “You reek.”
This kind of disrespect ruffles Boss Go’s feathers in the wrong way as he mutters that kids are so mannerless nowadays. His driver assures his boss that he’ll take care of it.
All in all, the police raid is an unsuccessful one and Shin-woo keeps it together just long enough until he’s alone in his car where he rages, “Eun-chang ah, Eun-chang ah! Where is he? He’s right here!” How many times must he have heard those words for them to be seared into his callous heart?
But what frightens me is how he smoothly buries that deep pain a minute later. Just then, something else catches his notice: Detective Lee seems to be chummy with Boss Go. Hmm.
Shin-woo zips past Eun-chang and his motorbike without stopping. Gah, it kills me that Eun-chang slaps on a brave smile, accepting that his brother would rather live his life without acknowledging each other’s existence.
Just as Eun-chang gets ready to leave, he sees a few men in the distance digging something out of the ground.
Turns out Shin-woo isn’t completely cold-hearted because he tells his ladyfriend, KIM AHN-NA (Uhm Hyun-kyung) that they should get married next year. She answers, “When you let me meet your brother.”
This must be a habitual argument as Shin-woo settles back into bed and Ahn-na says that it doesn’t matter to her if hyung’s an ex-convict. Shin-woo sighs that one of him is enough. “Hyung should never have been born.”
As for hyung, he’s currently dealing with an angry customer. So-ri appears by his side to defend her ‘oppa’, but Eun-chang deters her from fueling the fire and tamps down his frustration.
So-ri playfully grouches that Eun-chang has incredible patience for an ex-convict. Eun-chang laughs good-heartedly, “Then should I have attacked him instead?”
He’s wonderfully sweet to her and mentions that he met Shin-woo the other day. So-ri feigns recognition of his name.
Back to Shin-woo, who holds the same piece of evidence we saw earlier in his hand (an energy health drink). Detective Lee hints that Shin-woo’s fascination with drug cases could be a waste of the team’s time.
His reasons include that his fellow officers could misinterpret that passion as obsession, giving them a reason to remove Shin-woo from his position while drug dealers would consider him as easy prey. Shin-woo asks, “Have you ever seen a zombie?”
Now it’s his turn to drop a hint, “It’s a body that walks around without a soul.” That makes Detective Lee laugh – zombies only exist in movies.
But Shin-woo declares, “I’ve seen one. But rather than being scared, I was saddened.”
Shin-woo gets a call from So-ri, his informant, who gripes that she’s putting her neck on the line by relaying information to the police. When are the cops going to arrest Boss Go?
Ignoring Shin-woo’s prompts for any new leads, So-ri redirects the conversation topic to Eun-chang. She’s unable to appeal to Shin-woo’s sympathy towards his poor brother. She threatens to spill the beans to Eun-chang about how little bro is using her and Shin-woo hangs up.
So-ri curses him in her car and Eun-chang pops his head in, “You talking about me?” He apologizes that they’ll have to cancel their date – he’s got an errand to run.
That errand leads him to Club Mao, the same club where So-ri works. Eun-chang hurriedly hands the rented clothes to the waiter, telling him he has to leave before So-ri finds out that he’s here. He knows how much she hates it when he visits.
Eun-chang has this confused look when the waiter tells him to change. “You said to call if something’s bothersome!” (The tagline to Eun-chang’s errand service is, ‘If it’s troublesome, call us!’)
The waiter adds, “It’s a bother for me to change clothes.” Eun-chang hilariously stutters, “Do you want me to change your clothes for you?” Ha.
Turns out the real reason is that the waiter arranged an audience with Boss Go, who expressed interest in So-ri’s new boyfriend. But So-ri manages to hide Eun-chang from view just as Boss Go appears.
She ushers Eun-chang outside but Boss Go’s lackey catches a glimpse of them and recognizes the man in the suit…
At a nearby cafe, So-ri scolds him for dropping by the club which triggers Eun-chang’s insecurity: is she ashamed of him? Do the fancy threads not suit him? It’s neither of those things as she reminds Eun-chang of his dream to set up a book cafe in the future since his brother likes reading. Aw, that’s sweet.
Eun-chang guesses that little bro doesn’t ever want to see him again. Plus, things are awkward and uncomfortable for both of them now and he figures that they’ll just keep living without seeing the other. If he misses his twin, “I’ll just look in the mirror.”
So-ri comments that it would be perfect if the twins had half of each others’ personalities. Eun-chang’s eyes widen in surprise – how could she say exactly what their mother used to say when she’s never met Shin-woo?
So-ri flubs that she has before but then quickly glosses over her mistake. Presenting him with a pair of black leather gloves, she says, “I heard that identical twins are the same apart from your fingerprints. Now you two are exactly the same.”
That prompts Eun-chang to mention that he saw something strange the night he saw Shin-woo…
Boss Go fumes that the new Chief Detective has put a dent in his drug dealings with someone named “Choi”. He does, however, raise an eyebrow to hear that So-ri’s new boyfriend looks awfully familiar.
Meanwhile, Shin-woo gets in So-ri’s car and she fills him in on another tidbit, though he immediately flares at the mention of Eun-chang’s name. So-ri pouts that it’s about time that the brothers put their differences aside, smiling that it’s her wish to see the twins together.
Shin-woo’s face hardens and So-ri pouts that it’d be nice if the two really had half of each other’s extreme personalities. Pulling the car over to the side of the road, she presents Shin-woo with an identical pair of gloves. “It’s your birthday gift.”
Shin-woo looks down at his gloved hands and sadly admits that it’s the first time he’s gotten a birthday present. So-ri finds that hard to believe since she’s heard that their mother used to give the twins gloves every year. Shin-woo mutters, “That’s his birthday.”
But So-ri isn’t easily deterred and she amuses him. “Fine. His birthday is December 31 and now it’s January 1.” He thanks her.
So-ri cautiously wonders why the twins are so at odds with one another – don’t twins usually cherish each other? She wonders if it’s because hyung was branded as a killer, words that flares Shin-woo’s temper.
Shin-woo composes himself and says there were times when he felt like he was the criminal because the brothers share the same face.
Shin-woo: “Mother and I lived in a glass prison where the world could peer in and curse at us. But even within that hellish prison, what stole my mother away from me… was drugs.”
That certainly explains his motivation behind tracking drug lords and bringing them down. Though, I do get the sense that his idea of justice is more to fulfill his personal vendetta than anything else.
So-ri wonders why Shin-woo kept Eun-chang in the dark about why their mother died, which sparks his anger once more. She mollifies him, explaining that hyung genuinely cares for his brother.
Suddenly, a car appears out of nowhere and crashes into them. Eun-chang, who came out to meet So-ri, hears the noise somewhere nearby.
Eun-chang arrives at the scene and hurries over to an injured So-ri who whispers, “O-oppa. S-shin-woo…” Eun-chang spots his brother and drags Shin-woo’s unconscious body away from the wreckage.
Just then, he hears the roaring sound of an engine and looks up to see the driver back up and ram into So-ri’s car again with her still trapped inside. Eun-chang hobbles over to check if she’s breathing, but she’s dead.
He sobs with uncontrollable grief.
Eun-chang launches himself at the driver, who happens to be the same druggie that got away. Choking him by the neck, Eun-chang hollers why he did it. But the junkie thinks he’s talking to Shin-woo and laughs that he did it because he was promised drugs.
He throws Eun-chang off of him and tries to drive off. Eun-chang climbs into the backseat and strangles the druggie while the car spins out of control, crashing into the side of the road. Eun-chang is ejected from the car and sustains a head injury.
He makes his way back to the scene of the accident, kneeling in front of So-ri’s lifeless body. Then a voice calls out behind him, “What are you doing… Chief Detective Do Shin-woo?”
Boss Go tosses Shin-woo’s police badge and phone in Eun-chang’s direction. In a soft voice, Eun-chang surveys the scene for his brother. Boss Go gives a little smirk.
Eun-chang sees Shin-woo being dragged away by two of Boss Go’s men and he runs to catch them, all the while crying out his brother’s name.
A fantastic outing.
Let’s get serious about Sirius. The premiere hit the ground running with an intriguing premise that hooked me in right away. Because Drama Specials are much shorter in length (this series will have four episodes in total), it should come as no surprise that the production invests less of its resources (aka moolah) here than say, another prime time show with a longer run.
I heard a rumbling in the news that the broadcasting network slashed the budget on its Drama Special series, but you can tell that this show worked around the penny-pinching to showcase an engaging story. So Sirius is an excellent example that just goes to show that you don’t always need mountains of money to make a great drama.
I was initially intrigued about this show primarily because of Seo Joon-young (To the Beautiful You, Tree With Deep Roots), who I’m so happy to see in a leading role that extends his range to venture into two very different, yet highly interesting characters. Just when you think that Eun-chang is the classically dark, misguided rebel, the show turns that stereotype on its head to reveal that no – it’s the other twin with the severe inferiority complex you want to pay attention to. He’s the one who’s suffering from the consequences from a lack of maternal love; the one battling the raging anger demons and handling them with poor coping mechanisms. That hatred towards his hyung is doubled by his own physical likeness, and as years pass, the boundaries are blurred between a deep loathing of favored Eun-chang and perhaps even himself.
What I love about both Eun-chang and Shin-woo is that although they stand at opposite ends of society’s moral spectrum, neither twin is fully good nor fully evil. The Chief Detective who is usually a representative pillar of justice is on a personal revenge warpath to bring down the drug lords who drove his mother to her demise while the ex-convict has a heart of gold. Then at the same time, we see glimpses of these warring natures within each other as Shin-woo keeps the truth from his hyung as to why their mother died whilst Eun-chang grabs his girlfriend’s killer in a chokehold.
This is what makes them such fascinating characters as we go forward with the identity swap. These stark personality differences made it easy on us to tell who was who – but for how long? As the story continues to unfold, will we be able to identify which wrong deeds belong to whom?
And the bigger question is: Will they?
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